PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) — Gabe Imondi, a 74-year-old landlord from Rhode Island, had come to court hoping to get his apartment back. He was tired of waiting for federal rental assistance and wondered aloud “what they’re doing with that money?”
Hours later, Luis Vertentes, in a different case, was told by a judge he had three weeks to clear out of his one-bedroom apartment in nearby East Providence. The 43-year-old landscaper said he was four months behind on rent after being hospitalized for a time.
“I’m going to be homeless, all because of this pandemic,” Vertentes said. “I feel helpless, like I can’t do anything even though I work and I got a full-time job.”
Scenes like this played out from North Carolina to Virginia to Ohio and beyond Monday as the eviction system, which saw a dramatic drop in cases before a federal moratorium expired over the weekend, rumbled back into action. Activists fear millions will be tossed onto the streets as the delta variant of the coronavirus surges.
An escalating blame game between President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats over the expiration of the federal eviction ban has left local officials frustrated and scrambling to deal with a wave of renters now at risk of losing their homes.
The Biden administration on Monday rebuffed calls from Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats to revive the eviction moratorium, which expired Saturday, after unsuccessfully leaning on Congress to enact its own ban last week.
The White House said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lacked legal authority to reinstitute the eviction prohibition — even on a limited or targeted basis — because the Supreme Court had made clear it believed the CDC overstepped its authority.
Facing a deadlock, Pelosi and White House officials pleaded with governors and mayors to fill the void, in part by speeding up the delivery of more than $46.5 billion in federal rental assistance that has languished as state and local governments struggled to stand up programs to deliver the funds. Local officials complained that the finger-pointing was unhelpful.